The majority of the population here is white or African American, although 19% can trace their ancestry back to Italy. Another 18% can trace their ancestry back to Ireland, while 12% can trace their family history back to England. Another 8% can trace their ancestors back to Portugal and France. In fact Rhode Island has one of the highest percentages of Portuguese Americans and Cape Verdean Americans.
Researching your family tree or genealogy is a very popular hobby here in Rhode Island, and there are lots of societies dedicated to this field of research. These types of websites are well worth a look as they have lots and lots of useful information which could set you on the right track. You should be able to find census records and birth and death records, as well as marriage records. A lot of sites also have records of cemeteries, and although it may seem strange cemeteries can be a valuable source of information. This is because the information given on headstones or graves will often show other family names, and will usually give their relationship to the deceased. This type of information can make it a lot easier to see if you are going in the right direction, as having the names of relatives will generate help to clarify the facts.
A lot of these societies also have a considerable amount of other information including military records and school records. Other useful information can be found on the lists of passengers who immigrated to America, and these can sometimes get back to the 17th century. Records dating back to the American Revolution can also hold some real gems. Obviously your first port of call should be your relatives, as you could be surprised to find out exactly how much information they have for you. They may well remember things that they have been told by their parents or grandparents, and these could all be facts which have never been documented before. It's vital to find out as much as you can in this way, as at some point these facts could be lost forever if they aren't written down or recorded. This is just the kind information which makes genealogy so interesting, and so much more than just history. Many people who research their family tree are often surprised by how far they can go back, and the depth of information which can be uncovered.